photoshop creative

Dramatic male model retouching

Posted in:
Tips & Tutorials, by Mark White
October 25, 2017

Master the simple techniques needed to create drama and masculine grit in male model retouching

1. Lightroom Raw processing

The Library Module lets you set up keywords, metadata, star ratings and other organisational tools, while the Develop Module lets you adjust sliders for colour and tone. By using a Smart Object workflow, you can start adjusting in Lightroom or wait until Photoshop’s Camera Raw. It’s up to you.

2. Open as a Smart Object

DO NOT use the ‘Edit in Adobe Photoshop’ option. This will open up the photo as a pixel-based image, losing all the raw information from the Develop module. DO Ctrl/right-click on the image, go to Edit In, and click on the ‘Open as Smart Object in Photoshop’ option instead.

3. Camera Raw after Lightroom

Inside Photoshop, you can double-click on your initial layer to open Camera Raw. When you’re working on bulk images, you can make general adjustments in Lightroom and later open up an image in Camera Raw to make further, more detailed adjustments, one image at a time.

4. Remove Sharpening and Noise Reduction

In Camera Raw’s Details tab, set Sharpening and Noise Reduction to 0. Boost the Clarity to +20 to add some sharpness and contrast to your image. Adjust the Basic panel sliders as desired. Use the Gradient Tool to darken the bottom by reducing the highlights. Click OK to go back inside Photoshop.

5. Add a masculine

Go to Filter>Sharpen>Smart Sharpen. Drop the Amount to 100 and Radius to 1. This will give you a little bit of an enhancement in the male model’s fine areas. Smart Filters behave like adjustment layers so you can edit your settings at a later point in your workflow.

6. Separate the layers

While more commonly used with female models, with a bit of intent and control, Frequency Separation can be used for male retouching as well. Duplicate a new layer by dragging your original image layer down to the New Layer icon. Rename as High Pass and Low Pass respectively.

7. Low Pass, High Pass settings

On Low Pass, select Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur with a 3.5 Radius. On High Pass, Ctrl/right-click, then Rasterize Layer. Select Image>Apply Image. For 16-Bit images, select Low Pass for Layer, Add for Blending, 2 for Scale, check Invert and click OK. For 8-Bit use Subtract, no invert, and 128 Offset.

8. Successful Frequency Separation

On the High Pass layer, change the blend mode to Linear Light. You have now separated the colours and tones on the lower layer, while keeping all the details on the top layer. This helps you correct texture and detail without affecting colours and tones, and vice versa.

9. Layer order matters

Start with the basic yet extremely crucial step of ordering your layers. Place all adjustment layer changes on top and pixel layers at the bottom. This will keep you from getting lost in a structure-less workflow further on. Add a Vibrance adjustment on top of +20.

10. Double cloning layers

Create a new layer on top of the Low Pass and rename it Cloning Low Pass. Do the same for the High Pass layer. This helps you deal with blemishes separately and with more control. With the Healing Brush tool, go through the imperfections without erasing everything completely.

11. Low Pass cloning layer

Male models are often forgiving with blemishes, so you don’t have to smooth everything out. Because your image details are on a separate layer, you can deal with eye bags and discolouration with a 20% Opacity Clone Stamp, and just paint right over the area without worrying about removing detail.

12. Remove shine

On the Low Pass cloning layer, you can easily paint right over bright areas using a simple paint brush set at 20% and a colour that matches the surrounding area. Because there is no detail on this layer, there is no reason to make it complicated.

13. Alternatively, try Selective Colour

Another option, with a selection around the blown-out areas, is to use the Selective Color adjustment layer and select W. Increase Magenta and Yellows until they blend in. Then, reduce the Opacity of the layer so that you can still see the detail without having all those bright areas.

14. High Pass cloning layer

As opposed to the Low Pass cloning, here you will only clean up anything that is obvious, so things like stray hairs, crow’s feet, and other distractions. Don’t go crazy. You may find that you need to clone over areas already sorted on the Low Pass cloning layer.

15. Duplicating High Pass layer

To recover lost detail on certain patches of skin, grab your High Pass layer and duplicate it, adding twice as much detail on your male model’s skin. Afterwards, add a black layer mask. You can then add back the extra sharpening with a 20% Opacity white brush.

16. Correct tight spots

When you’re working on tight areas, such as the veins of the eyes, you won’t have enough space to set source and destination points as is needed with the Clone and Healing tools. Instead, use the Spot Healing Brush to paint over the offending areas and correct them.

17. Fix skin discolouration

The trick to fixing skin discolouration is to know which tools to use to select the problem areas on the skin. Just keep in mind that skin tones will vary based on a model’s age, sex, ethnicity, cool/warm background environments, etc.

18. Balancing reds and yellows

After following the steps in the side panel, you can add back the depth and dimension that was lost when you evened out the skin discolourations by reducing the Opacity of the Yellows layer and the Reds layer to about 75%. It’s sometimes subtle, but it’s there.

19. The whites of the eyes

Select the whites of the eyes using the brush inside Quick Mask, or another selection tool. Once selected, go to Selective Color and click Neutrals. Set the CMY sliders to -20. Soften the mask selection with a 20% black brush to fix some transitions.

20. Adjust the eye whites

Go to the layer Opacity slider and decrease as needed. You can also balance the colour to make it more neutral by adjusting the CMY sliders. Finally, select the irises and create a Curves layer to brighten and make them more visually appealing.

  • Really great article. Thanks for taking the time to explain things in such great detail in a way that is easy to understand.